Automate Issue Tracking Processes

Type of Service: 
Management Consulting
Country: 
Saudi Arabia
Industry: 
Health Care Services
Duration: 
6 months
Challenge: 

In many organizations, tracking issues is done via unstructured methods such as meetings, phone calls, and emails. This is feasible for small organizations, but for our client this had become unworkable since they had slowly grown quite large: an IT department of over 100 people in a larger organization of thousands. Unstructured methods were were beginning to fail miserably at tracking projects.

We had worked for a long time for this particular client, and we saw that they were beginning to suffer from many specific problems due to the lack of formal issue tracking:

  • projects that were behind schedule because issues would slip through the cracks until the last minute
  • low-quality projects because the implementing vendors found it easier to cut corners in the absence of stronger tracking and control
  • overwhelmed staff members because of multiple, conflicting assignments
  • inability of senior management to get a clear summary of project statuses

Solution: 

Systematic Computer Science researched the open source market to find a reasonably simple yet powerful tool for tracking issues. The client had already gone through a failed experience using a commercial product that ultimately was considered too complicated and thus abandoned over time. We did not want the same experience to repeat itself, hence the focus on a simpler, lower risk solution.

After considering different tools such as Trac, MantisBT, and Bugzilla, Systematic Computer Science proposed and demonstrated to the client the extremely capable Redmine: an open source issue tracking, project management, document sharing, and source control viewer all rolled into one. Redmine is a Ruby on Rails project, and it is used by many organizations around the world for tracking their projects. It solidly met the client's requirements, with a total license cost of zero.

We installed and configured Redmine for our client, and also provided training to the staff on how to use the core features. As it slowly crept into the culture of our client, other departments began asking about the tool, and began asking for it as well. As of mid-2011, we are currently processing these requests.

Benefits: 

The immediate benefit of using Redmine, as more than one staff member of our client noticed, was a sharper focus. Tasks are assigned and reviewed and discussed... all in a very public, traceable fashion. This made the stakeholders involved in the tasks (assigner, assignee, and watchers) more careful and aware of the task's details, updates, deadlines, and problems. Instead of 'soft' tracking via email, phone messages, or meetings, Redmine provided a concrete basis for documenting progress or lack thereof.

Senior management was a beneficiary by the rollout of this tool in more than one way. Now, at last, they had a tool which could give a summary of all the issues faced by all or a subset of the projects. Broad patterns could ultimately be seen, and those patterns might indicate deeper systemic problems that need to be addressed (e.g. lack of technical skills in a particular area).

Finally, using Redmine to communicate with the vendors (the server was placed in the DMZ) provided the client with an excellent way to force vendors to be transparent and responsive. This, in and of itself, can be considered justification enough for the new issue tracking system.